Are you hurting, suffering or going through a loss (or know someone who is)?
Even if you’re not, I hope you will join me in this weekly journey. I’ve met a wonderful man who is truly the BEST “teacher” I’ve ever encountered: he’s authentic, he is REAL, honest, intelligent and in touch with his listeners — he is concise and easy to understand.
So… whether you’re ambivalent, totally turned OFF, or turned ON to what the Bible has to say about LIFE, you will be both informed and enlightened. You’ve nothing to lose except 30 minutes of time each week. This is the first of a series on the Book of James.
Faith On Trial – Pastor Dan Borgelt
He opened with this Bruce Almighty movie clip:
“God is Mean”
Bruce (Jim Carrey) was just a normal guy, trying to work his way up from newscaster to news anchor at WKBW News. In this clip he has just found out that his slimy coworker Evan has manipulated the boss and weaseled his way into a promotion that Bruce had been working hard to earn. On a live telecast, Bruce loses his cool, and then loses his job later that day as a result of his on-air tantrum. That’s where this clip picks up.
AUDIO – the Message (I suggest earbuds and a quiet place):
VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT AT BOTTOM
Pearls of Wisdom:
– A Trial in Life is Ultimately our Faith on Trial
– “Consider it” pure JOY when you face a trial.
– Our goal is to have an “INNER SMILE IN THE MIDST OF A TRIAL”
If you’re in the area join us on Sunday at 8:30 or 11:00
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church,
3377 Shakertown Road
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“Perhaps some of you didn’t have a chance to see that movie… Bruce Almighty.. setting it up a little bit, Bruce has had a really bad day; he lost his job, he’s gotten beat up, and a lot of other things have happened; and as you can see he’s blaming God, and at the end of the scene he’s basically given up on not only God, but LIFE as well.
The truth of the matter is that trials lead more people away from God than perhaps anything else.
There’s something about trials isn’t there… they’re incredibly polarizing aren’t they. Trials, as we’ve said, have the ability to lead people completely away from God, and we all can think of somebody in our life… a family member, a coworker, a friend, or someone who we know has written God off because they simply cannot reconcile the idea of being in a relationship with God who would allow those types of things to happen to them.
And YET… it is those same things, for many of us that have led us TO the place where we are with God. For if we were to take the opportunity, we would probably find out that it was in the MIDST OF or it was the RESULT of a trial that many of you ended up coming into a relationship with God. What is it about trials that lead so many people AWAY from God and also lead so many people TO God?
If you’re here today and you’re pretty convinced that you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then the fact of the matter is you have to embrace the idea that a trial is nothing more than a really lousy time in life… there’s really no purpose or point behind it in any way at all.
I want to encourage you, if that’s you, to consider, to at least be open this morning to thinking about the possibility that maybe you responded the exact opposite of how you were supposed to respond–instead of moving further away from God because of what has happened to you in your life you were supposed to get to the place where you realized you utterly and desperately NEEDED God and grew closer to Him.
But for the Christian, those of you who claim to be “Christ Followers” here, my desire from our time together is that you would begin to see a trial in life is ultimately YOUR FAITH ON TRIAL… that you would begin to embrace the idea that a trial in life is ultimately your faith on trial. [Transcriber’s note: I LOVE how Pastor Dan repeats himself at pertinent points… so effective for the listener]
So how have you responded in the past? How have you responded to the trials of your life in the past? Are you one of those people who have blamed God and moved away from Him… are you one of those people where you’ve learned your lesson but it’s usually not until years later then you look back at it, like, “OH THAT’S RIGHT”.
My goal and desire is for you to get to the place where as soon as you’re in the midst of a trial, while you’re in it… you recognize, “My faith is on trial… what does God have to teach me right now, right here in this moment?”
We’re going to begin a new series here at Kirkmont, through the Book of James for 7 weeks leading up to Easter and then our Easter Sunday and then a special 4-week topical series after that for anyone who might be visiting with us on Easter… but we’ve got seven weeks to go through the Book of James together… what that means is we’re going to be able to look at some of it, certainly not all of it; but that is the topic that James brings up in his very first chapter.
Now to get us started, anytime we go through a book of the Bible, the first sermon’s gonna hafta have a little bit of background information in it. And so we’re going to go through that as quickly as possible because we know that some of you LOVE background information and some of you view it as an opportunity to take a nap (light laughter). So we’re gonna get through that as quickly as possible.
The first and most important piece of this whole background information when it comes to the Book of James is… WHO IS JAMES? The Scripture tells us that James is the half-brother of Jesus. They share the same mother… different fathers you can imagine (audible smiles to increasing light laughter as we got it :).
Some people come from different traditions where you’re taught that Mary never had any other children of her own… the perpetual virginity of Mary… but I wonder if anyone has ever asked Joseph what he thought about that whole idea (laughter).
Anyways… more importantly, Matthew 13:55 tells us this Scripture:
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”
Now we pause here because a when some people hear the word “brother” they think that it means “disciple” of some kind. But that’s not the context here. He is very clearly talking about his FATHER, his MOTHER, and now his SIBLINGS.
And so we have the half-brother James… the half-brother of Jesus. Now I don’t know if you think that being the half-brother of Jesus and growing up with Jesus would’ve made it easier to embrace Him as Lord of your life.. or harder to embrace Him as Lord of your life… but for me I’m thinking HARDER… maybe that’s just my relationship with my sisters… but I’m thinking definitely a lot harder; and in fact Scripture tells us in John 7:2-5 that James did a hard time embracing Jesus as Lord… scripture says…
“But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
So here we find out that James, his own family members, did not believe who Jesus was for a season.
So what was it? How do you get from being a skeptical half-brother, to someone who gets a whole book in the Bible… one of 27 New Testament books? Well, the Scripture tells us it was the resurrection. See, his familiarity with Jesus at first caused him to doubt him; but his familiarity with Jesus would be the very thing that God would use to solidify his faith in Jesus. When Jesus makes a resurrection appearance, most people would’ve said, “E-AHHHH… I’m pretty sure that’s Jesus but I’m not sure, I mean, the resurrection, that’s pretty wild, ya know”… but James, a family member… “That’s my brother”.
And so the Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:7…
“Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles”
… You might be tempted to think he’s talking about James, one of the disciples or one of the other followers, but it says no, he appeared to James, and then he appeared to the disciples. Jesus gave his own brother a special act of grace and mercy… his doubting brother and appeared to him specifically and uniquely that he might know who He was. … That’s what we would do for our family members isn’t it? We would want them first and foremost to trust in us if we knew we were the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.
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So that’s a little background on James chapter one… we’ll start with reading the first four verses; we’ll read a larger section, but we’re going to look at these four verses for the majority of our time.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
He starts off with this very interesting phrase… this idea of “consider it pure joy”… what does he mean by that? I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY… when life is really lousy? I mean, WHO DOES THAT? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Realize that he’s not saying I want you to be JOYFUL or JOYOUS when you’re going through a trial or tribulation… he uses this neat expression “consider it pure joy”.
I remember I was watching a video once… it had this couple… it was called “The Breakup”… this couple they breakup and they’re… sorry I gave away the ending I guess (laughter)… well, they haven’t broken up yet and they’re arguing and fighting… and the biggest problem is that the guy is a slob… some of you ladies are with me right now (laughter)… he’s a total slob, he doesn’t help around the house at all, and they’re fighting about it and finally he yells…
“I’LL DO THE DISHES”… you know… and she says, “You don’t get it… I want you to WANT to do the dishes” (LAUGHTER)… I still don’t understand that… and he’s looking at her like, “WHO WANTS TO DO THE DISHES… that doesn’t make any sense”.
It sounds like James is saying “I want you to be joyous when things are really hard” … like WHO DOES THAT? …ya know, but he doesn’t say that… he says “CONSIDER it pure JOY”… that’s a very unique and interesting expression… and it’s a good one to highlight the difference because… because of this misconception the Church has given birth to the fate or at least the out of touch joyous person. I mean you’ve all met the person before… you know that person you might say, “hey, how ya doin… how’s it goin?” and they might say, with this BIG SMILE on their face, like they’re super-joyous, “OH, I’M FINE… I’m fine… I lost my job yesterday, ya know… our kids are really sick”… and they’re just smiling and joyous and you’re thinking “really”?
I don’t know about you, but when I meet those kind of people I just want to sit them down and say, “Hey look, we can have a much more real and authentic relationship than that… you don’t have to pretend to be joyous… when you may not necessarily FEEL IT… that’s not necessarily what James is after here. I think what James is after here is.. I’m calling it this interesting expression, this idea of the “INNER SMILE IN THE MIDST OF A TRIAL”… and I think that’s what he’s after here… this “inner smile in the midst of a trial”.
It says, it might not be as easy to smile these days as at other times… but because I know JESUS CHRIST I’m not completely shaken… that’s what I think James is after. Because I know Christ I have something that is a sure foundation even when all the natural joyous things of life are taken away from me. And that’s real and that’s authentic.
And that’s what James is after here… I don’t want you to feel less of yourself, less of a Christian because you’ve been unable to jubilant and joyous in all of life’s circumstances… I mean James, the half-brother of Jesus went through a lot of difficulties in life: he watched his brother CRUCIFIED, he himself was persecuted.
JESUS… was Jesus always joyous and jubilant? Scripture tells us when he lost one of his good friends, Lazarus… some of you know, in the Gospel of John, the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus did what? .. HE WEPT. The night before He was crucified he was sweating so profusely it was like drops of blood, the Scripture tells us… pleading before God the Father that if there was any other way that this could be done to do it that way.
But there wasn’t another way… and Christ loves us incredibly. The Scripture tells us He was crucified on the cross for our sins. There was nothing that was going to stop him from rescuing us and paying the penalty for our sin… but that does not mean, even though He would not have had it any other way, it does not mean that he was JOYOUS while being crucified for us… in fact, the beauty of the Gospel is that in His full humanity, he suffered greatly, but that he loved us enough to do it even though he knew it was going to happen.
“Consider it pure joy even when you’re experiencing many trials, or trials of many kinds”.. it says. I think the reason that James says we should consider it, or we should count it as pure joy in the midst of a trial even when we don’t FEEL joyous is because he knows that trials are ultimately serving as a test of our faith.
A trial is OUR FAITH ON TRIAL.
And notice it doesn’t say that the reason we experience trials is in order to test our faith, it simply makes the claim that trials do in fact test our faith… and this is an important distinction.. because some people have been known to read it as if, ALL of our trials that happen in life are God testing our faith… and THAT IS NOT WHAT HE’S SAYING… he’s simply saying all of our trials do test our faith but they’re not necessarily put there by God in order TO test our faith.
There are all kinds of people who blame God for all of their trials because they blame God for this misunderstanding. It’s like this woman in the video… “Everything happens for a reason”… “God had it all happen to you for a reason”… and you hear other people saying, “God must be testing me”.. that seems to indicate that God is the author of all of your trials. That’s not what James is saying… he’s not saying that God has put all the trials in your life in order to test you… he’s simply saying that the trials you have in life serve as a test of your faith.
I remember when I moved off to seminary… I moved from Ohio to Chicago and it was my first year of seminary and I didn’t know anyone. And I had a car and I had to commute a long way to campus because I couldn’t afford any of the housing near Chicago. So I was about 45 minutes away commuting back and forth to class.
Well… throughout my college years and my early seminary time I neglected my car; I never had any money for things like oil changes, tire rotations, fluid top offs, etc… I never did any of that stuff. So early the first week on the way to class my car broke down, it overheated along the side of the highway and there I was… I missed class that day and for the next few days… and it was expensive and I didn’t have the money.. and I was sharing that with a group of students from the seminary and they were all like, “All man… I think God’s just really testing you… ya know” … and I’m thinking, “No he’s not… I didn’t change my oil”… like what are you talking about… let’s not over spiritualize it.
And I think that sometimes people do that… but James isn’t saying that all trials are put there by God… no wonder people aren’t interested in the Christian God when we present Him that way. That’s not a loving Father at all. We do have own the fact that at least He ALLOWS them to happen to us and that could be a topic for another day. But they’re not necessarily PUT there by Him… James isn’t saying that; but the reality that when they exist in our life they do ultimately serve as a test of our faith.
The truth is we face trials for all kinds of different reasons: sometimes we SIN and we make POOR CHOICES in life and we suffer the consequences of those choices; sometimes we make UNWISE decisions, they’re not necessarily sinful, they’re just unwise and we suffer as a result of it. And this room is filled with people who’ve suffered and experienced trials because of OTHER PEOPLE’S SINFUL DECISIONS in your life.. that’s another reason; and the list could go on and on and on… and that’s one of the reasons why James says in vs 2, “Trials of many kinds”; because the point for James is not WHY we suffer right now, or WHERE it’s half coming from… it’s just you and I realizing that regardless of why we are experiencing a trial, THIS is a test of our faith.
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT TEST? How have you responded in the past?
For a Christian, a trail in life is their faith on trial. Church… you’ve faced trials of many kinds… I don’t have to know you to know that. You know the heartache of saying goodbye, the stress of not being able to pay bills, the pain of abuse, the sting of divorce or the despair of depression and loneliness, the helplessness of addiction, the heartache of death. Friends, every single time that you face or have faced a difficult circumstance in life, your faith and your relationship with Jesus Christ is tested… whether we recognize it in the moment or not; whether we pass or fail or land somewhere in between.. the testing happens.
And it would seem that what God is trying to communicate to you and I through James is that if we can learn to recognize this; learn to recognize that when we’re in the midst of a trial right away and view the trial, experience it, LIVE IT through the lens of faith, then we’re gonna approach these difficult times with a whole different attitude, and we’ll likely make far better decisions in the midst of them.
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How does a group of people… this might not be everyone in the room, but how does a group of people who large in part claim to have faith in a God who is sovereign which means He is in control of all things without outside influence. Over all of creation, how does a group of people in that God respond to difficult circumstances in life? Is it possible that our response to trials in life have looked much more like the world of people who do not have faith in that God, than a group of people who DO have faith in God. HOW DO YOU RESPOND WHEN PUT TO THE TEST?
I’ve found that most people either respond by putting too much trust in themselves, or not enough trust in God.
I remember one time my wife and I had just our one son, Caleb… we were in the car and we were together leaving our house in Southern Illinois. The house we were renting was up on a really large hill. To get up to it you had to take a winding, very steep, blacktop paved driveway to get to it… and it would get very slick when it rained.
One day in the rain we were all leaving heading down the winding, slick driveway and I picked up my cell phone to make a phone call. I felt my wife hit my leg and make some kind of a noise and she basically was saying, “We’re going too fast”. And by the time I realized we were going too fast it was too late to do anything about it because I tried to do something about it… I could feel the car sliding so I let off the brake and just started coasting; I made one turn, I went to make the other turn and I was worried that we weren’t going to completely make it… that we would hit the curb and tip over … worst case scenario.
So instead, when we got to the curb I started to make it and when I was worried that we were going to tip over I just turned the wheel and started driving down the hill… thinking that was better than rolling down the hill.
Once we started driving down the hill I learned a lot about Amanda and my faith… we handled the situation very differently (light laughter)… because I’m immediately two hands on the wheel and I’m calculating a plan to come through this OK… thinking “I’m in control here, we got this… we’re alright”... and my wife she just immediately says, something like, “OH JESUS, HELP US”. And I’m like, ‘oh yeah… that’s right, I remember hearing that’ (more laughter).
I remember hearing that and thinking, “that’s right, I have a problem when I get into a crisis situation that I might possibly be able to handle I put too much trust in myself. There have been times in our life where the situation was more dire, when maybe I needed to come alongside her and say, “You’re not putting enough trust in God.”
I think most people either put too much trust in themselves, or not enough trust in God, or some combination of the two. And James is inviting us, in the midst of a trial to respond as people of faith ought to respond.
We’ve gotta read the rest of this passage together; we’re not going to talk about it so don’t be alarmed from a time standpoint… we’re going to read James 1:5-18 and finish this section so by the time we done all of James we will have read it all, we might not have taken the time to talk about it all.
Now as we start to dive into the rest of this little section here it’s going to feel like James is struggling with ADHD of some kind because he starts talking about all these different topics.. he says, “If you lack wisdom”.. then he says, “the brother in humble circumstances” and then he starts talking about us being tempted, and then he finally finishes with the idea that God is good. And it might seem like he’s just moved on.. and it’s actually quite possible that that’s what he’s doing.
But I want to propose the idea that what he’s about to say isn’t that far off from the subject of trials; because if we look at the issues that he’s addressing, how many of us have experienced a trial because we’ve lacked wisdom and not known what to do? ….so he talks about that. How many of us have experienced a trial because we’ve been in a financially humble situation? How many of us have experienced a trial because we’ve been tempted? …and maybe either the temptation or us giving into the temptation has caused this.
And finally, do we not need to be reminded in the midst of our trials that GOD IS GOOD. So let’s read it, James 1:5-18
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
We’re going to close our time together with a video… just to set this up a little bit, I saw this film with a good friend of mine back in Minnesota… and I don’t know about you guys but when I would go see a movie with another guy friend, we’d leave a seat between us and get a large popcorn and we’d put the popcorn in between us… and the last thing we ever did was cry in front of each other.. ya know.
When we saw this movie… a good Christian film called “Courageous” and when I walked out I said, “So, how many times did you cry?” And he said, “Too many to count” (or something like that). So anyways here’s a film; a man has just experienced I think about the worst trial you could possibly think of, and that’s loss of a child.
Audio is included at end of Sermon Tape above at: [00:28:25]
Video is below
Remainder of Pastor Dan’s Message:
Video clip ends at [00:31:10] on tape
Pastor Dan’s closing points:
I once had someone come into my office… they had just received news from a doctor that was not very favorable at all. And, ah …I was sort of at a loss for words and I’m sure I rambled some things and eventually I’m sure I said something similar to what this pastor says to this man in this video, and that is, “Those people who do go through a trial will experience an intimacy with God like never before on the other side”.
And she seemed sort of frustrated… not very happy with my answer; and she looked at me and said, “You do realize that this has the potential to kill me?” “How can you say I’ll experience an intimacy with God like never before?”
Some of you know the answer.
We experience an intimacy with God when we experience a trial and live through it. But when we experience a trial and we don’t… we don’t just experience an intimacy with God… for those who trust in Jesus Christ, we experience His powerful presence for all of eternity. It’s the hope we have as believers in the midst of difficulties that God invites us to bring to others as well in the midst of theirs.
Let’s pray together:
“Father we thank you for our time together in Your Word… for James’ salvation and we know that He, like us, needed Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross… and we thank you for the truth of Your Word and pray that it would resonate in our hearts. I pray for anyone reading this message who maybe more than being challenged needs to be comforted.. that they would indeed discover that you are good… that You would draw close to the and that you would bring them that comfort that they so desperately need.
Father, we pray for the FAITH that brings us through trials… and thank You even when we’re unfaithful, even when we fail these tests that you promise to be faithful. We ask all these things in Christ’s Name.” Amen.